Does Success Spoil or Sanctify Our Students?

Spoiled_brat_selfish_parent_child_begBy most measures you and I are "successful." We live in a land of freedom and opportunity. Notwithstanding any financial stresses in our lives, we have shelter, clothing, and food. We have family and friends. Most of us are in good health. Compared to most people in this world, you and I are very "successful." We live in relative ease. So do our children!

And therein lies one of our greatest dangers. We and our children are easily spoiled. Success and ease tend to make us self-absorbed, self-sufficient, self-righteous, and self-seeking.

  • We come to believe that "we are owed a life of success and ease."
  • We and our children come to believe that "life is about us."
  • We come to believe that "we produced our success."

We become autonomous, thinking that we do not really need God. We may not say we don't need him but the way we live?a weak prayer life, a weak devotional life, inconsistent worship on the Lord's Day, and the constant compromises we make in disobeying God's clear commands?all reflect what we really believe.

This is the danger facing Israel. They have won great victories and are now preparing to settle down in peace and prosperity. The danger is that their success will spoil rather than sanctify them.

There is a wonderful passage in Joshua following the wars in Canaan. The Israelis have just conquered their enemies and are preparing to settle in the new land flowing with milk and honey. They have been successful and are now preparing to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Matthew Henry describes the scene this way, "The war being ended, and ended gloriously, Joshua, as a prudent general, disbands his army ... and sends them home, to enjoy what they had conquered, and to beat their swords into plough-shares and their spears into pruning-hooks ... And, now ... Joshua publicly and solemnly ... gives them their discharge."

Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul." (Josh.: 22:5)

Although these are somewhat synonymous for the purpose of emphasis, there is value in considering the particular meaning of each verb: Observe, Love, Walk, Keep, Cling, and Serve.

To Observe

To notice, watch attentively, fulfill and comply with. We are to spend time knowing, understanding, and complying with God's word. How is your Bible study? How is your attendance at worship?

To Love

: to have a great interest and pleasure in something. This exhortation is the essence of the "first and greatest commandment," to love God passionately, with every fiber of one's being (Deut. 6:5; Matt 22:37-38). The primary purpose and chief end of our existence is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever, to take pleasure in God.

Do you enjoy God? Are you more passionate about God or something/someone else?

To Walk

Walking means to order the whole of one's life by God's word and to be filled with his Spirit. When we rise up, walk through the day, and lie down at night, in ALL his ways?even those that are narrow and up-hill, in every particular instance?God's word is to be our compass.

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut. 6:7-9)

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." (Matt. 7:24-27)

To Keep

To honor or fulfill, to observe or pay due regard to God's commands. There is no "BUT" in the believer's response to God's commands! Believers are never to say, "I would obey but....." If we love God, we keep his word.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him ... Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. (Jn.: 14:15ff)

To Cling

To hold tightly to, to be hard to remove from; to adhere to someone, to remain persistently faithful to God and his word. We cling both out of love and need. He is our life! He is our life and our treasure?we grasp him tightly!

"I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (Jn. 10:10)

To Serve

Life is NOT ABOUT US. Life is about loving and serving God; life is about serving his kingdom.

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful for he cannot deny himself. (1 Cor. 9:10)

Our success in this life will either spoil us and our children or it will motivate us to show our gratitude by renewing our commitment to Observe, Love, Walk, Keep, Cling, and Serve!